With the Kennedy Space Centre in Orlando Florida still on our to-do list we made a visit to the UK’s largest space centre the National Space Centre in Leicester to learn more about space, planets and science.
Outside the Space Centre, there were some great space exhibits on display that were just a taster of what was to come on the inside. As you enter the first thing you see is a 42m high rocket tower with two rockets attached which was quite a sight!
There are two entry points to access the Space Centre, with our stay play and explore voucher there is no need to pre book. We just needed to go to the main entrance with the printed out voucher to gain entry.
We arrived just after opening at 10am and there was no queue and this was during the Easter Holidays.
The National Space centre is a huge indoor attraction with eight zones dedicated to space with interactive exhibits, planets, stars and huge rocket ships on display, and is a fun learning experience for adults and children alike.
On arrival it is recommended to book your slot at the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium. We had a 10.30am slot. It was a great educational experience in the planetarium which we were told is the largest full dome planetarium in the country.
We sat back in what can be described as a cinema like experience but was very interactive. The chairs do not move but the way the short film is screened you feel like you are flying. The kids enjoyed the film and they learned about atoms, protons and electrons.
The tranquillity base is located at the exit of the Planetarium and we were advised this zone gets busy later on in the day so we went here after the planetarium.
This is very much a hands on interactive area and the kids can have a go at using space type equipment.
There is a photo opportunity with a cardboard cut-out of Tim Peake which again the girls had lots of fun getting their pictures taken especially as during our visit Tim Peake was on board the ISS.
In the zone dedicated to the Planets, you could explore and learn about Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
Plus the girls really liked checking to see how much they weighed on different planets!
You could also have a go at at driving a mars rover on a martian landscape which my girls really enjoyed but it was very difficult!
Our favourite bits were:
- The weather pod where you can go inside a booth and are recorded reading the teleprompter advising the weather for the year 2085. After you finish you can view the clip outside.
- The Rocket Tower, where we could look at a full size rocket and pretend to be at mission control. The bottom of the rocket is in the cafe and periodically when it takes off it shoots out smoke to the amazement of both adults and children, it really is a wonderful exhibit.
Make sure you visit upstairs, there are lifts if you cannot manage stairs or have babies in pushchairs.
Within the rocket there are exhibits of 3 decks of the rocket. Taking the lift gives you a fantastic view of the centre and was like if you were about to board a space rocket!
Level 2 of the rocket is about leaving earth and the story of the first man in space Yuri Gagarin and about Liaka the first dog in space. My little girl has not stopped talking about him since our visit.
You can also learn the history of the Russians vs the Americans and the race to be the first to send a man into space!
Level 3 on the top floor follows on from this Staff advised the Orlan Space Suit on display is used on the International Space Station. Orlan space suits have been used by Russian, American, European and Chinese astronauts.
You also learn about Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldron and Apollo 11 and their moon landing together with seeing a 1000kg moon rock was very special as this is largest piece of moon rock in the UK.
The girls had a chance to become a pilot and land the space craft onto the moon surface.
You you could go back in time to the 1960’s where they had lots of fun looking at the old style telephones, and typewriters.
The girls also had a chance to make a small rocket and fill with rocket seeds as this is what Tim Peake has taken with him to try to grow in space, and were able to take these home with them.
You are able to view some Space Shuttle parts, as well as the Soyuz craft which the girls had great fun climbing into, which is currently the only human space flight craft in use.
What made the girls laugh was looking at the space toilet before they were able to walk inside a module of the International Space Station..
I would recommend visiting the National Space Centre early to avoid the busy crowds and be able to enjoy the attractions as during our visit it got busier and busier to the point where it was too busy to really enjoy the centre which was a shame.
I have read a few negative reviews but there are also many positive reviews. There is a lot of written information but take what you want from that as children like to look and touch and there was plenty of that available.
There is a variety of activities to do for all different age groups. There was a simulator ride but there is a height restriction of 1.2m. If you check the website there is dedicated days for younger children – Small Space days
We had booked a package through the Leicestershire Stay Play and Explore offer and stayed at the excellent Leicester Marriott Hotel which is around a 15 minute drive to the Space Centre. Located and well sign posted off the M1, but it was quite a drive and is located in an industrial area of Leicester.
The cost of the package was £139 for 2 adults and 2 children inclusive of hotel stay, breakfast and the choice of 3 attractions from a possible ten venues across Leicestershire. making this offer very good value.
Up to date prices and opening hours can be found here. But at the time of our visit under 5’s go free and the cost per adult is £14 and £11 per child.
Parking is not a problem as there is a big car park and the only additional cost to your day is the £3 parking charge which is payable at the pay and display metres.
As usual with all attractions you exit via the gift shop which has a great selection of space themed products to buy and pricing was very reasonable. My little girl liked the centre so much that she wanted a toy space shuttle to take home to remember the day!
Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the National Space Centre with lots of interesting things for children to see and explore. We were there about 3-4 hours and the time went very quickly which is always a sign of a good day out.